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Freight Committee: "Postpone any advancement" of Barbur road diet

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 10th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Barbur needs more capacity, not less,
says freight committee.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Freight Committee, a group that advises the City's Bureau of Transportation on "issues related to freight mobility", penned a letter to Commissioner Steve Novick (and sent a copy to Mayor Hales) that outlines their opposition to the proposed "road diet" on SW Barbur Blvd. Novick mentioned the letter during his remarks at a City Council hearing on the SW Corridor Plan yesterday.

The PFC claims the road diet proposal would lead to a reduction in vehicle capacity and they feel SW Barbur needs an increase in capacity. They also say if the conditions are unsafe, "the cyclist community" should pay for a public outreach campaign and that if people want to ride bicycles they should walk them on dangerous sections or consider using other streets.

"Cyclists could dismount and walk the short distance across the bridges and then resume on the bike path, or cyclists could divert to other streets."
— PFC letter

The letter (PDF) is dated October 8th and signed by PFC Chair Debra Dunn and Vice Chair Pia Welch .

Before we share more about the letter's contents, keep in mind that the PFC is essentially the same type of group as the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee. It's members are citizen volunteers, meets monthly to discuss projects and policies, and has a PBOT staff liaison assigned to it. As an advisory committee, the PFC doesn't have much official authority. Their activities usually amount to letter-writing and signing off on projects that impact freight. While their opinion is respected (much like the bike committee), they do not hold the same amount of influence as the city's much more powerful commissions on various topics (like the Planning Commission or the Design Commission).

That being said, when freight interests talk, elected officials listen.

In their letter, Dunn and Welch explain why their committee doesn't want the road diet proposal to move forward.

Here's the opening section (emphasis mine):

Debra Dunn at the launch of the
"Street Smart" safety campaign in
June 2011.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

"Members... have serious concerns about the 'road diet' design concept and its inherent reduction in vehicular and freight movement into and through the city. Specifically, we are opposed to the 'road diet' on SW Barbur Blvd (Highway 99W) because it serves as a critical north-south corridor connecting Downtown Portland to Downtown Sherwood and all neighborhoods in between. The City's Transportation System Plan currently classifies SW Barbur Blvd as a Major City Traffic Street, Major Emergency Response Route, Major Truck Street, Major Transit Priority Street, City Bikeway and Walkway and the future High Capacity Transit - bus or light rail route. In Metro's adopted Regional Freight Plan, Hwy 99W is classified as a Regional Main Roadway Route which is intended to serve regional and state freight mobility needs. According to ODOT and the City of Portland, SW Barbur Blvd is also a Seismic Lifeline Route that experiences double the traffic when an incident closes lanes on I-5. In our opinion the corridor is of regional significance and warrants and increase, as opposed to a reduction, in capacity."

"We recommend a public outreach campaign sponsored by the cyclist community... to help educate cyclists on how they can use the corridor more safely."
— PFC letter

Just to refresh your memory, the road diet proposal would re-stripe the existing traffic lanes on SW Barbur Blvd to create dedicated space for bicycling. While ODOT claims that the re-striping would result in significant future delays for motor vehicle operator, a Metro traffic engineer (and others) who looked at the same numbers disagrees and say more study is needed before drawing any concrete conclusions.

Continuing with the letter from the PFC, Dunn and Welch contend the road diet also isn't needed because crash data shows there isn't a bike safety issue. "The PFC strongly supports investments that improve safety along this corridor and prioritizing transportation improvements based on areas where the safety concerns have been documented," they write in the letter. And then a few sentences later they continue by stating, "Fortunately to date there are no recorded crashes involving pedestrians or bicyclists on the Vermont and Newbury bridges."

If indeed the conditions are unsafe, states the letter, the PFC says the "cyclist community" should sponsor a public outreach campaign, "to help educate cyclists on how to use the corridor more safely."

If you're not familiar with the stretch of Barbur in question, watch this video created by The Oregonian:

How do they recommend people ride more safely in this section?

"Cyclists could dismount," reads the letter, "and walk the short distance across the bridges and then resume on the bike path, or cyclists could divert to other streets."

"While this may not be an ideal solution," continues the letter, "it is a short-term solution that needs to be further evaluated and considered to take people out of an 'unsafe area'."

In their conclusion, the PFC urges the City to move discussion of the idea into the long-term SW Corridor Plan process, which is where they also point out that the road diet concept has already been discussed but "not selected for implementation". Given that, they are calling on the City of "postpone any further advancement" of the road diet until the Corridor Plan process has taken its course.

Download the letter here (PDF).

— Learn more about this issue by reading more stories in the archives.

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Comments
  • Bjorn October 10, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Interesting, I think that semi trucks don't belong in the central core of our city, the freight lobby seems to think that the problem of trucks running over bicyclists can be solved by simply eliminating bicycles...

    Recommended Thumb up 43

    • Mike October 10, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      They are correct. Remove bicycles from the equation and trucks won't/can't run them over.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • Oliver October 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm

        How does that work for pedestrians?

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        • Spiffy October 10, 2013 at 5:15 pm

          let's ask them once they're all gone...

          Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Hart Noecker October 10, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I recommend truckers dismount and walk over the Columbia river. Congestion solved.

    Recommended Thumb up 65

    • Rider49er October 10, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      Perhaps the trucker community (including every truckers mother) could pay for that "Dismount & Walk for Freight" outreach campaign.

      Recommended Thumb up 11

  • Peter W October 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Has the freight committee met recently? According to the meeting materials, it looks like they haven't met since May:

    http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/58371

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Chris Anderson October 10, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    The "one less car" logic could perhaps convince them that shifting some percentage of commutes along that route to bikes, and what that means in terms of reduced congestion for trucks.

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    • 9watts October 11, 2013 at 12:13 am

      "its inherent reduction in vehicular and freight movement into and through the city."

      I don't see any *inherent* reduction infreight movement on Barbur. I haul freight (lumber, pipe, appliances, machine tools, etc.) on Barbur (and on most other arterials) with a bike and trailer(s). The road diet would *increase* my comfort moving freight the way I do it. Time to update and expand your understanding of what freight movement looks like these days, folks.

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      • paikikala October 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm

        Many non-professionals, and professionals, define capacity as the number of vehicles served over a designated time period. A better metric would be the number of people served. this would place the bike rider in the same classification as a single driver and the space each needs is quite different. Also, any high capacity transit, will take space from the existing right of way, so I guess they're against that also.

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    • El Biciclero October 11, 2013 at 11:16 am

      They sound perfectly happy to let some Barbur commuters switch to bikes to reduce congestion...by riding somewhere else.

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  • TWSS October 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    The idea that the problem could be solved by removing people riding bicycles (or putting the onus on them to change their behavior) reminds me of people who say that if a woman doesn't want to get raped, she should simply not go out at night.

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    • sabes October 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      The idea of someone equating not riding a bicycle with rape is, in my opinion, disgusting.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • Greg October 10, 2013 at 8:41 pm

        The idea of someone being unable to parse a simple logical statement is, in my opinion, embarrassing.

        The OP essentially summarized the freight committee advice as "if you don't want to get squashed by a truck, stay off the street in your bike". The OP then points out the similarity of that statement to the regrettably classic "if you don't want to get raped, stay off the street on your feet at night."

        The thing being equated with "staying off the street in your bike" is thus "staying off the street on your feet at night".

        Please make a note of the difference.

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      • Scott October 11, 2013 at 9:10 am

        Someone is not equating not riding a bicycle with rape. So your opinion is invalid.

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    • wsbob October 11, 2013 at 12:27 am

      Yeah...maybe, but that's a stretch. Rape usually involves someone that intentionally inflicts harm on another person, whereas with collisions between people operating vehicles, the harm is usually unintentional.

      It's no great secret that riding a bike on Barbur puts the person riding, in some serious peril. Knowing this, people that want to avoid that danger, until the Barbur is fixed, have every right to choose to ride a safer route.

      The committee did say about getting off the road at the bridges, "it is a short-term solution..."

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      • Scott October 11, 2013 at 9:41 am

        "Rape usually involves someone that intentionally inflicts harm on another person, whereas with collisions between people operating vehicles, the harm is usually unintentional." - wsbob

        That is the real stretch right there wsbob.

        Also, please list alternate routes to Burlingame/Terwilliger area, their distances, and the vertical feet you would need to accomplish on those alternate routes. Then compare those to going down Barbur.

        Saying that if you want to be safe, choose another route, is asinine. It is also ridiculous for people who are involved and freight and logistics to go against working towards a safer and better flow of traffic.

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        • wsbob October 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm

          ""Rape usually involves someone that intentionally inflicts harm on another person, whereas with collisions between people operating vehicles, the harm is usually unintentional." - wsbob

          That is the real stretch right there wsbob. ..." Scott

          Explain what you mean.

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          • Scott October 14, 2013 at 9:22 am

            I have never seen a poorer use of the word 'usually'. Ever.

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      • Nathan October 11, 2013 at 10:39 am

        Barring mechanical failure, people often deliberately operate their vehicle in an unsafe and reckless manner. The harm is no less than if they meant to cause an accident.

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        • paikikala October 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

          Broad strokes there. Any evidence to back it up.

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  • Granpa October 10, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Having gotten a big F-U from freight it grows more important that real traffic volume data be acquired. I have a hunch that the traffic volume data for Barbur that is posted on this blog is anecdotal. We don’t know how many cars are on the road on Barbur on a typical day at any given time. We don’t know what the traffic volume is during an event that triggers “overflow“ volume from I-5. We do know that there are frequent crashes in the Terwilliger curves and it is my conjecture that these result in “overflow” traffic on Barbur. We don’t know how big a backup, or how long a wait would occur during an overflow event if one lane were removed for a road diet. It is reasonable to establish base lines and model potential events prior to taking action.

    It is indisputable that Barbur is a dreadful bike ride and change should occur. It is not indisputable that the ultimate solution is to removes lane(s) from motor vehicles. Taking stuff from stakeholders, especially stuff that is used, is rarely a winning strategy. If it turns out that Barbur does indeed act as a relief valve for I-5 congestion, then removing a lane will impact motorists more that posters on this blog anticipate. Bicyclists who are in the minority would be taking a useful thing from motorists who are the majority. A retrofit of the bridges to build cantilever bike lane and a sidewalk would be a solution that would accommodate everyone. Sure it would be more expensive than paint stripes, but in an overflow, traffic gridlock event I would bet you a beer that motorists would use the bike lane as a travel lane and say damn you to anyone who said otherwise.

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    • wsbob October 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      "...it grows more important that real traffic volume data be acquired. ........ We don’t know how many cars are on the road on Barbur on a typical day at any given time. We don’t know what the traffic volume is during an event that triggers “overflow“ volume from I-5. We do know that there are frequent crashes in the Terwilliger curves and it is my conjecture that these result in “overflow” traffic on Barbur. We don’t know how big a backup, or how long a wait would occur during an overflow event if one lane were removed for a road diet. It is reasonable to establish base lines and model potential events prior to taking action. ..." Granpa

      Real traffic volume data would be helpful to everyone. Getting it probably involves another study, or more studies, which could well take months or longer to conduct and analyze. Even then, given the variables inherent in the relationship Barbur and I-5 have to each other, and the state of flux that area population could have on use of the road, the results could wind up being not so reliable.

      Easiest, most economical thing to do in the interim, may be to just go ahead and implement a temporary...6 months to a year...trial reconfiguration of lanes across the Vermont and Newbury bridges, so as to create a bike lane safer for people crossing the bridge on bikes than the current 'no bike lane-minimal shoulder' is...and which, by the way, may possibly create a very good opportunity to study how such a change in the road's configuration would affect the movement of motor freight. Nothing set in stone: if the temporary change hopelessly clogs up motor vehicle traffic...change it back. if if the temporary change doesn't result in a significant increase in numbers of people riding the road...change it back.

      The motor freight industry has good reason to be on the watch for things that raise its overhead costs. Clogged freeways/longer deliveries cost them...and us who buy the stuff they haul... more money.

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      • 9watts October 11, 2013 at 12:21 am

        "Real traffic volume data would be helpful to everyone"

        Um, we have already seen right here that vehicle counts are down, considerably over the past ten years. RJ linked to and then copied lots of data showing this. Or are you looking for something sorted by type of traffic?
        http://bikeportland.org/2013/09/06/citing-a-possible-4-minute-traffic-delay-by-2035-odot-dismisses-bike-improvements-on-barbur-93587#comment-4422366

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        • wsbob October 11, 2013 at 1:01 am

          I wouldn't even bother with the study, at least until the lanes were short term reconfigured for a bike lane, at which time a study or studies would commence, if people wanted to do that.

          It's fine for the freight industry to be looking to maintain road capacity for its business, or for the roads' motor vehicle capacity to be maintained as a relief route from I-5, but if the impact of a short term trial wouldn't be critically detrimental to traffic flow and capacity, it probably wouldn't be such a traumatic thing to give a reduction in number of lanes a try.

          On the other hand, some people think it is, but I don't think the freight industry is just blowing smoke. On a metro area scale, it has serious problems related to traffic congestion arising from increasing population and numbers of cars on the road. Several years ago, I think it was...the O did a good story on the biz and the run up I-5 to Portland, about how much earlier in the morning the jam-ups were occurring, and how some of the businesses then were attempting to counter the problem by setting out earlier in the morning. But...there's only so much you can do with various remedies like that.

          All these studies that some people love to conduct, and cite ad nauseam, are fine...to an extent, but sometimes it may be better to just give the idea a spin around the block to see what works and what doesn't.

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        • 9watts October 11, 2013 at 1:08 am

          "the O did a good story on the biz and the run up I-5 to Portland, about how much earlier in the morning the jam-ups were occurring, and how some of the businesses then were attempting to counter the problem by setting out earlier in the morning."

          http://tinyurl.com/you-are-traffic

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  • Nik October 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Pedestrians should be advised that this section of sidewalk contains large knife blades that swing swiftly and at random intervals across the path. Only those who are pure of heart shall cross. You are hereby educated that any severe puncture wounds you sustain attempting to use this pedestrian facility are the result of your own insufficient care.

    In all seriousness, why should we accept transportation facilities that are dangerous, by design, for any of their intended users?

    Recommended Thumb up 11

  • BURR October 10, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    PFC members could pony up the $s to widen those bridges.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • q`Tzal October 10, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      PFC members can also pony up ALL +$4.3 Billion dollars for the CRC they think is so necessary. They are they main push behind it.

      How about a compromise: if they pay for the complete cost of the CRC we'll find the funds for the Barbur road diet?

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • 9watts October 11, 2013 at 12:28 am

        hilarious, q'Tzal.

        Except that we're forgetting that motor vehicles don't pay their way around here - not even close. Human powered transport is a bargain for the public coffers. Everyone who bikes is putting money back into our pockets that would have otherwise been spent on road maintenance, law enforcement, hospital bills, oil wars, and all the rest. Ergo we shouldn't stand for this bulls%!t suggestion that 'we' should pony up and pay for 'our' infrastructure, I mean study how not to use 'their' infrastructure! To me this speaks volumes about how little the PFC grasps the larger picture. We have a lot of work to do.

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        • q`Tzal October 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm

          Of course my suggestion was farcical.
          OTOH my idea of "all CRC costs" is all expenditures; past, present and future; that are incurred by said project. I'd only agree to the CRC with the poison pill of PFC being on the hook for every cent of every cost overrun and all the lawsuits that'd come later from the shortcuts they took to control costs at the expense of the safety of all users.

          All those lawsuits that would be aimed at the local or state government for substandard facilities would be the PFC's liability in perpetuity. Yes, I'm mean spirited about this.

          Recommended Thumb up 1

  • tvcb October 10, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    BURR
    PFC members could pony up the $s to widen those bridges.
    Recommended 0

    Unfortunately the bridges in question cannot be widened due to their construction and are still considered to be "very healthy" by federal standards so there is no likely hood of replacing them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • BURR October 10, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      never say never.

      I've looked at the two bridges from below and don't understand why they couldn't widen the sidewalks relatively inexpensively in a manner similar to the way the Hawthorne bridge sidewalks were widened.

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      • tvcb October 10, 2013 at 6:13 pm

        "ODOT also evaluated ways to improve bike/pedestrian access on the bridges as part of the project. However, because the bridges are so narrow, making the needed improvements would require rebuilding or replacing the bridges entirely (appx $25 million), or building a separated or cantilivered bike/ped bridge adjacent to the existing bridges ($8-$10 million). ODOT does not have funding to complete either of these options, but staff has continued to look for other, low cost ways to improve bike/ped acces on the bridges."
        (http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/REGION1/Pages/vermont_newbury/indexold.aspx)

        My understanding is that because of the construction of these structures the concrete superstructure on top of the "caps" cannot be altered, this was always why they couldn't modify the curb height as well.
        Im not sure how they are able to add higher railings after the currently slated work but my guess is that they are not altering the concrete superstructure.

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        • granpa October 10, 2013 at 6:30 pm

          Well then construct pedestrian/bicycle bridges tied to the existing bridges. Engineers can solve this. Just because some mook who read a pamphlet says it can't be done does not mean the battle is lost.

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          • tvcb October 10, 2013 at 8:11 pm

            That would be "or building a separated or cantilivered bike/ped bridge adjacent to the existing bridges ($8-$10 million)."
            Of course its possible, all we want at this point is restriping which in effect wouldn't cost anything since the roads will be restriped anyways after the repaving slated to start next year

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        • spare_wheel October 11, 2013 at 8:36 am

          So we criticize ODOT for their misuse of metro data but accept their "evaluation" on face value. No thanks.

          Recommended Thumb up 4

  • AndyC of Linnton October 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    My suspicion that freight owns all the roads in America is continually being confirmed. Thanks for coming right out and saying so, PFC! See ya in hell!

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  • Doug Klotz October 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    The Portland Freight committee is not "citizen volunteers", it consists of paid representatives of companies who either move freight or generate freight, plus CH2MHill, as I read the huge 32-person roster. It's a business lobby. As such I'm sure it is listened to more that the BAC or the PAC.

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  • Fourknees October 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    I'm pretty sure that the existing sidewalks aren't wide enough to walk your bike anyway.
    I drive this 75% of my commutes and I think the only "freight" I've seen is a trimet bus. There must be a lot of truck traffic during non-commuting hours, at least on this stretch of Barbur.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • Adam October 10, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    "Consider using them on other streets..." - WHAT other streets? There is no connectivity in this neighborhood. None. That is the reason we need Barbur to be safe for all its users.

    Also, since when is Barbur a freight route? I have never seen freight traffic on it. The freight traffic tends to be ten feet over, on I-5.

    Recommended Thumb up 15

  • Suburban October 10, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    The tone and timing of the letter shows veiled panic. It's not as if pedestrians in black hoodies are going around selectively closing off holes in the air...It's much more threatening- seeds being planted at city council, press, and public awareness.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • 9watts October 11, 2013 at 12:31 am

      +1

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • danny October 10, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    The freight lobby thinks about freight and dollars. They do not think about people or any other users of the roads. Hence the committee's utterly predictable diatribe. Unfortunately, this letter gives ODOT cover to say that it is just taking the middle ground by not "caving" to the freight people or that pesky "cyclist community."

    I spend quite a bit of time riding this stretch of Barbur, and I've almost never seek large trucks. Regardless, whether or not trucks use this street, the notion that we should maintain the extremely unsafe status quo is absurd.

    I continue to believe that state law obligates ODOT to put in a bikeway on the Barbur bridges when it works on them. I know ODOT disagrees, but perhaps someone needs to test its interpretation of its legal obligations. A nice little cycling suit.

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  • Michael Andersen (News Editor) October 10, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    It's especially strange to see a group who you'd think would have a fair amount of technical expertise about traffic flow at odds with the Metro traffic engineer, who said last month that (contrary to the letter above) lost road capacity is not a major effect of the proposed road diet:

    "The capacity constraint remains at the signal at Terwilliger at the south end. It does slow things down, because the slowest car's going to dictate the flow of traffic when you only have one lane. But it doesn't really reduce the capacity, or at least not very much. And that's why the impacts are at least minor to modedrate, I would say."

    This isn't a matter of opinion, it's just a factual question. Either the traffic engineer is wrong about the capacity impact of a road diet, or the freight committee is.

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    • RJ October 11, 2013 at 8:26 am

      The PFC is just an advisory committee -- they aren't technical experts. It's almost like asking the average person on the street to give their uninformed opinion on whether removing a northbound lane on Barbur will have major traffic impacts. The intuitive answer for the layperson is "yes." You really have to have a decent grasp of traffic flow theory and intersection operations (as Anthony Buczek and Dr. Monsere do) to understand why the answer is actually "no."

      I like wsbob's idea (actually, I know the idea's been floated by others...I just mean in this comment thread) of giving the Miles-to-Capitol restriping a trial run. The City of Ashland is just now wrapping up a one-year trial road diet on North Main Street which, ironically, is also Highway 99 and under ODOT jurisdiction. The key thing is you have to figure out in advance how you're going to measure success. You have to measure for motor vehicle volumes, speeds, diversion, etc., before and after, bike and ped volumes before and after, surveys, etc. It would take some effort, but the cause is worthy.

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    • Phil Richman October 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm

      We (people who value human safety) are so close to victory with the Barbur safety improvements. A few key areas that need to be emphasized to refine our points: 1) SW MILES- Capitol Highway or Hamilton, NOT SW Terwillinger-Capitol Highway or Hamiton. 2) Road nowhere near capacity in present condition. Distance to northbound constraint (Light at Hamilton) is so substantial that flow would be the same. Rather than hurry up (55 mph) and wait it will be move more gradually/controllably/safely (35-45mph?) and wait. Same amount of time between traffic lights=same drive time 3) People who WALK deserve every bit the voice in this as people who drive, cycle or take transit (also people who walk) This is not a drive vs. bike issue. It is a human safety/mobility/public health/social equity issue. 4) Road maintenance needs for bicycling and walking is far less costly than for autos and trucks. Good news for ODOT. 5) Improved safety/mobility options would reduce traffic and therefore improve flow for everyone.

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  • Peter W October 10, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Just read the PFC letter again. Anyone else notice how it seems to parrot the letter from Jason Tell [1], except it is even more wrong?

    Tell: "the road diet concept was discussed, but in the end was not selected for early implementation".

    PFC: "The road diet concept was discussed, however, not selected for implementation".

    Did PFC forgot the word "early"?

    1: http://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Tell-Barbur-letter-to-novick-.pdf

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  • Cory Poole October 11, 2013 at 9:02 am

    I think it's fairly clear that a detailed traffic study is required. When I use Barbur in a car, I find that the bottle neck is always at transition into downtown. I cant think of a time when traffic was backed up at the bridge in question. When I ride my bike on Barbur I just try to keep my speed up and hope for the best.

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  • SD October 11, 2013 at 9:48 am

    "Postpone any advancement of" = kill, without further study

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  • Joseph Readdy October 11, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I'm sympathetic to the needs of the freight industry to freely move the goods that we demand as a consumer society. However, when we prioritize for freight movement, the unintended consequence is encouraging increased use of automobiles.
    My biggest issue is the continued confusion between capacity and congestion. There is plenty of capacity on SW Barbur Boulevard and that capacity won't diminish with a road diet. Congestion during peak travel times may increase until people seek alternatives – which just might be the bike, once Barbur has insanely great bicycle infrastructure.
    A road diet will increase safety for all modes.

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    • paikikala October 15, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Well said. During off-peak times trucks could easily access downtown with much less conflict. A long time ago LA proposed a ban on trucks downtown between 6 AM and 9 PM. Seems like Portland has the authority per ORS to restrict traffic for safety reasons.

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  • dan October 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

    So, what they're saying is "we are happy to see people continue to die on this road as long as we can avoid the possibility of a slight reduction in motor vehicle throughput."

    Got it.

    Incidentally, I drove Barbur as a reverse commute yesterday - from downtown to Beaverton in the morning, and back in the evening. There was no traffic that direction, and heavy traffic in the oncoming lanes - switching the direction of travel depending on time of day as some people have suggested seems like it would work very well. I have biked some hairy places (Hanoi, Bangkok, Chinese expressways), but now that I've gotten a good look at Barbur during rush hour, I wouldn't consider it a viable bike route...I have much respect / sympathy for the folks who use it as their daily commute.

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  • Jason October 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I ride Barbur Both ways at least 3-4 times a week, and I think the Oregonian video is very telling to what I have experienced. Look at the level (or lack thereof) of traffic on the Northbound lane as Damien Rides North During the first 45 seconds. This road is nowhere near capacity.

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  • El Biciclero October 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    "... if people want to ride bicycles they should walk them on dangerous sections or consider using other streets."

    And they say cyclists are arrogant.

    Do they realize that in the last couple of serious pedestrian collisions (one a fatality) the victims were walking their bikes?

    Do they even consider that while they are complaining about a possible 4-minute delay at some unspecified time in the future, asking cyclists to "use other streets" puts at least a 10-minute delay into those cyclists' trips right now?

    How about this, Freight Committee: no through trucks on Barbur north of Bertha. Use I-5 instead between Bertha/405.

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  • Todd Boulanger October 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Perhaps there is an opportunity here for a session at the PFC with a presentation of what a "Right Sized Road" / "Road Diet" is and can do for the freight community.

    The typical opportunities that many in the freight community are not aware of or forget typically deal with the potential to make improvements in lane widths (going from sub or standard to wider than standard), adding a center turn lane (useful for safer turns or breakdowns), improved visibility with buffer lanes/ bike lanes, pavement preservation (keeping heavy traffic away from catch basins/ roadway edges), and often the most forgotten ... the smoothing of traffic flows with a single lane reducing peak speeds and the leap frogging and weaving through freight traffic of smaller faster vehicles.

    Here in Vancouver we implemented two road diets on an industrial arterial (lower Grand Blvd) and an old highway (old SR 501 / Fourth Plain) and experienced many of these safety outcomes on corridors with >10% freight traffic in the early 2000s.

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    • wsbob October 12, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      "...adding a center turn lane..." boulanger

      Reconfiguring Barbur from its four main travel lanes, to two, with a center turn lane and bike lanes to the far right of the lanes sounds alright.

      Friends of Barbur's proposal for reconfiguration apparently still, since about Dec 2010, is for a three main travel lane configuration...two main travel lanes outbound, one inbound...and bike lanes. I haven't run across their reasoning for the the two lane outbound, one inbound. I'd like to read, if they think so, why they think the two lane, one lane configuration of their proposal would be able to viable for motor freight movement in Portland.

      Center turn lane with a single main lane in each direction seems the simplest, for a short term study period. Wonder what a rough estimate of the striping required for that 5-6 mile stretch of the road would be...and to change it back if it was found to be not sufficiently successful to justify keeping it.

      The Portland Freight Committee finds itself confronted with the simple idea of the road...with a 'road diet'... possibly going from four main travel lanes, to just two...a fifty percent reduction in main travel lanes on the road. Such a dramatic reduction in amount of main lane space provided on the road with the diet, would naturally, given the nature of the motor vehicle dependent business they're associated with, find the committee having serious reservations about the idea.

      If this bird is going to fly, that is...the lane reduction with bike lanes...somebody had better start doing a better job of selling it than has been done so far.

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      • 9watts October 12, 2013 at 8:16 pm

        "Such a dramatic reduction in amount of main lane space provided on the road with the diet, would naturally, given the nature of the motor vehicle dependent business they're associated with, find the committee having serious reservations about the idea."

        Except that as several folks have pointed out here in their comments, it is rare to see trucks on Barbur at all. So is this posturing? A symbolic fight?

        It is a real reduction only if the road was full before, and as we know from traffic counts, it is considerably less full now than ten years ago. Taken at face value their missive to me is quite fishy.

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        • wsbob October 12, 2013 at 11:37 pm

          9watts
          "Such a dramatic reduction in amount of main lane space provided on the road with the diet, would naturally, given the nature of the motor vehicle dependent business they're associated with, find the committee having serious reservations about the idea."
          Except that as several folks have pointed out here in their comments, it is rare to see trucks on Barbur at all. So is this posturing? A symbolic fight?
          It is a real reduction only if the road was full before, and as we know from traffic counts, it is considerably less full now than ten years ago. Taken at face value their missive to me is quite fishy.
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          "...It is a real reduction only if the road was full before, ..." 9watts

          No such condition has been laid down to compel a particular definition of what a road space reduction of the number of Barbur Blvd's main lanes of travel is.

          Barbur Blvd currently has two main lanes of travel in each direction. So called 'road diet' proposals offered so far, would reduce the number of main lanes down to three, perhaps two. That most certainly would be a reduction in the number of main lanes the road is presently configured for.

          Accordingly, that reduction represents a 50 percent reduction in the roads' total motor vehicle carrying capability. Whatever use motor freight currently makes of Barbur, the freight committee understandably looks to the future, as it seeks to sustain or increase the roads' current motor vehicle carrying capability for the day when it may very well be needed.

          Effectively countering or neutralizing the need spoken of by freight to sustain that capability, is what road diet advocates have so far, not successfully accomplished.

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          • 9watts October 13, 2013 at 8:00 am

            wsbob,
            that was a lot of words to, essentially, gloss over the fact I was pointing to, that the number of lane miles and the historical use thereof diverge on Barbur.

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            • wsbob October 13, 2013 at 10:13 pm

              9watts
              wsbob,
              that was a lot of words to, essentially, gloss over the fact I was pointing to, that the number of lane miles and the historical use thereof diverge on Barbur.
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              "... that the number of lane miles and the historical use thereof diverge on Barbur." 9watts

              Translate that.

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            • 9watts October 13, 2013 at 10:22 pm

              You are focused on the number of lanes. I am focused on the utilization rate.

              Taking away lanes tells us nothing about how this will or might affect traffic flow unless we know how near capacity the road is before any change is visited upon it. SE Division, as we know, just got a road diet btw 60th and 78th or so. Several of us argued here in the comments section about whether that would necessarily or in this case equal a reduction in capacity.

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              • wsbob October 14, 2013 at 12:01 am

                "You are focused on the number of lanes. I am focused on the utilization rate.

                Taking away lanes tells us nothing about how this will or might affect traffic flow..." 9watts

                The freight committee apparently is also focused on the utilization rate, and apparently feels the need to avoid having that utilization rate capped or reduced from where it presently is. Like everyone else working for a living, people moving freight, most likely hope their business won't be static or decline, but will expand and prosper.

                Four main lanes, down to two or three, means confining the road's current and future utilization by people driving motor vehicles, to accordingly less space on the road. Motor vehicle traffic backed up bumper to bumper during rush hour for miles and miles, as can be seen daily on highways such as I-5 or 217, is I suppose what many would generally agree is a 'full' road. Not much room elsewhere during those times of day for more motor vehicles. Not really any room for additional utilization of the road for travel by motor vehicles.

                This isn't something that's likely to work in favor of people that want one or two of those four main travel lanes to be converted to bike lanes.

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                • RJ October 14, 2013 at 8:05 am

                  The two northbound lanes on the section of Barbur between the Miles intersection and the Capitol Highway merge will never, ever be anywhere near fully utilized. This is because vehicle throughput into the section is metered by the upstream signal at Terwilliger. Here's what I mean.

                  At the Barbur/Terwilliger intersection, there are two northbound travel lanes on Barbur, but they only get green time for something like 50% of the signal's cycle length, maybe less. This means that there is, at most, one lane worth of demand coming northbound into the section targeted for the road diet. You can add onto this the traffic from Terwilliger turning onto northbound Barbur, but this is a pretty modest number. The bottom line is, by the time you get to the Miles intersection, you have just about the amount of vehicle demand that can be accommodated by a single lane. Two lanes is overkill; one lane is an appropriate design.

                  And here, I'm talking about the morning peak hour. In the PM peak, Barbur northbound is like a ghost town through this section. This is why the road diet being proposed is for two lanes southbound, one lane northbound, and no center turn lane. Wsbob is right that the classic 4-to-3-lane conversion involves one travel lane each direction with a center turn lane. But in the short section of Barbur being discussed, there's no need for a turn lane. The access points in this section are currently right-in/right-out only anyway. There aren't any left turns.

                  With the proposed design, it is acknowledged that the PM peak movement southbound is heavy enough to warrant two lanes (the upstream Hamilton signal isn't nearly as limiting as the Terwilliger signal). And the road diet actually IMPROVES conditions for motor vehicles southbound, as the outside lane would not need to share with bicycles. This would be a win for freight. (Although the data I've seen show a pretty low heavy vehicle percentage on this section.)

                  The more I think about this, the more of a slam dunk it is. The only reasonable objection I can think of is that, yes, sometimes semis roll over in the I-5 Terwilliger curves. I just think denying basic bike/ped facilities on Barbur -- by far the flattest, straightest route connecting SW to the Central City -- is an unacceptable way to deal with this problem. Use an active warning system, variable speed limits, whatever.

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                • wsbob October 14, 2013 at 11:13 am

                  "...But in the short section of Barbur being discussed, there's no need for a turn lane. The access points in this section are currently right-in/right-out only anyway. There aren't any left turns. ..." RJ

                  I'd want to look at the section of the road being discussed, again first hand to confirm the number of instances along the road where turning left onto side streets from Barbur was a possibility. Looking at the map, as I replied to Barbara's comment down-thread a bit, there's a bunch of side streets intersecting with Barbur, that people traveling the road may have need of turning onto.

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                • wsbob October 14, 2013 at 5:57 pm

                  "...In the PM peak, Barbur northbound is like a ghost town through this section. ..." RJ

                  That this is true seems doubtful, but I suppose part of the study the BTA and some other people are advising, could possibly utilize an online viewable video camera feed so people could see for themselves what the traffic volume for both directions of travel is for different times of the day.

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                • RJ October 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm

                  A single lane of traffic is assumed to have a capacity of 1900 vehicles per hour in the Portland metro area. (The assumption varies by context -- you assume a higher flow rate for more urban areas with aggressive drivers, and a lower flow rate for rural areas and smaller cities). You can check whether or not this is reasonable with a stopwatch on a busy street that's running with uninterrupted flow -- it's about two seconds per vehicle through a fixed point. Then you factor in things like upstream and downstream intersections, merges, diverges, pedestrians having the audacity to cross a street and stop traffic, etc. This is where the Terwilliger and Hamilton signals come in as limiting factors on the theoretical capacity of Barbur in the area of the two bridges.

                  Anyway, Barbur northbound is currently running around 500-700 vehicles at PM peak hour. I guess "ghost town" is an overstatement, but that number is far, far below the theoretical capacity of a two-lane uninterrupted section (which is what we have now in the area of the bridges), and significantly below the capacity of even one lane. I guess we can put up video cameras or take another year for a study or whatever, but ODOT, PBOT, and Metro already have the data, and they've already done the Synchro/SimTraffic study. We already have a good sense that this will work right now with minimal (and probably positive) impact on motor vehicle operations. At this point it's much less about doing a traffic engineering exercise and more about deciding whether the current Barbur cross section reflect's our city's stated aspiration to support a healthy, connected, equitable transportation system.

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                • 9watts October 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

                  Thanks, RJ. That was beautifully succinct.
                  I wish ODOT would speak half as clearly in their communiques.

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                • wsbob October 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm

                  RJ, October 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm ...traffic light cycles can easily be adjusted for traffic flow and volume.

                  "...Anyway, Barbur northbound is currently running around 500-700 vehicles at PM peak hour. ..." RJ

                  Please post together, both the northbound peak hour number of vehicles, and the southbound that your references suggest.

                  If you feel like it, relating to mention I made in an earlier comment, maybe to an earlier story, take a stab at what you think the cost would be to implement a short term, trial reconfiguration of the Barbur for either the four to two lane, one lane with bike lanes configuration, or the four to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane and bike lanes...include in your estimate/guess, the cost to turn it back if it doesn't work out.

                  In an earlier comment, I suggested a short term trial reconfiguration, as a possibly quicker, more informative and economical means to arrive at the answer to the question of whether a road diet to provide additional space on Barbur's right of way, would be a good change to make.

                  http://bikeportland.org/2013/10/10/freight-committee-postpone-any-advancement-of-barbur-road-diet-95306#comment-4474150

                  Looking holistically at the area Barbur and I-5 pass through, the people that use those roads, the neighborhoods the roads pass through, and the roads' affect upon all parties concerned will help enable the best changes to be made.

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                • RJ October 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

                  Southbound is in the neighborhood of 1200-1400 vehicles in the PM peak hour.

                  Cost to design, grind, restripe, sign, pay for traffic control, admin, contingency, etc...I dunno, I think there are people here who can answer that better. I'd put it at $75-100K, though. A little cheaper to regrind and reinstall the existing configuration, if it came to that, since there's no design work. I don't think it would come to that, though. The new normal would be a hit.

                  Last note -- cycle lengths and phasing can be changed, but not easily. If you want to give more green time to through movements on Barbur, that means you have to take green time away from something else -- the cross street, left turns, pedestrians, etc. It really is a zero-sum game unless you want to spend millions of dollars widening intersections, which isn't really something our city has supported in awhile.

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                • wsbob October 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm

                  "Southbound is in the neighborhood of 1200-1400 vehicles in the PM peak hour.

                  Cost to design, grind, restripe, sign, pay for traffic control, admin, contingency, etc...I dunno, I think there are people here who can answer that better. I'd put it at $75-100K, though. A little cheaper to regrind and reinstall the existing configuration, if it came to that, ..." RJ

                  To reconfigure the road from Burlingame to Duniway park, which measuring roughly on a map looks to be a distance of about 3 miles, $30,000/per mile to do the work sounds like a deal.

                  I can't really say about costs for this sort of thing, but it sounds cheap. Some years back, Beaverton decided to add bike lanes to one of its collector streets. Bunch of the neighbors hated the idea, of course, because it required elimination of street parking. My recollection...and I could be wrong on this, someone that's more certain, feel free to correct...is that the cost for striping the bike lanes for one and one quarter miles, was $50,000, which may or may not have included the cost of some degree of resurfacing the street; striping was done concurrently with resurfacing, to reduce costs.

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              • 9watts October 14, 2013 at 8:04 am

                "The freight committee apparently is also focused on the utilization rate"

                no. like you they are focused on the # of lanes.

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                • wsbob October 14, 2013 at 10:28 am

                  "...they are focused on the # of lanes." 9watts

                  Freight committee is focused, among other things, on the number of lanes the road is configured for, and the utilization those lanes are capable of providing for.

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      • Barbara October 14, 2013 at 10:09 am

        There is nowhere to turn to on this stretch of Barbur, so we don't need a center turn lane. Barbur in this stretch is basically like a bridge as it doesn't have any intersections. As many people have said before that is the main reason this street is over capacity in this section. I think the one lane north, two lanes south idea even came from ODOT. The street widens to 5 lanes after the Capitol Hwy onramp and stays this way through the Hamilton intersection, this way giving ample of room for cars waiting at the light. I drive Barbur a lot and I have seen traffic backups southbound between SW Miles and Capitol (so keep two lanes), but never ever going north in this intersection. The only backups comes close to downtown. And as many have said before I also rarely see trucks on this section. I think the Freight Advisory Committee just heard Barbur and didn't pay attention to the very limited area we are talking about.

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        • wsbob October 14, 2013 at 10:50 am

          If you'll look at a map, you'll see there's a bunch of side streets that intersect with Barbur, mostly north but also, a few south of the intersection of Hamilton with Barbur, before Burlingame.

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  • Opus the Poet October 11, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    So what I gather from this is the PFC extending a middle finger instead of a conciliatory hand to the safety of cyclists, n'est pas? How thoughtful of them. On the other hand I have yet to hear of anyone driving a semi or even a large delivery box van who has been injured in a wreck with a cyclist.

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  • Terry Nobbe October 12, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I like Jonathan's comment: "That being said, when freight interests talk, elected officials listen." Elected officials can listen and discuss all they like, none of them has the power to make more right-of way within a thoroughfare like Barbur Blvd. If any of us really feel marginalized by this conundrum, consider the poor in China that STILL bike everywhere after just about every one else has switched to motorized travel over the last 14 years or so. I personally feel sad for that country that was once MOSTLY a country of cyclists. Back then EVERY little boy dreamed of some day owning and riding his own Flying Pigeon.

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  • jim October 13, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Road diet is the most moronic thing that they could do. Look at roads that they have already screwed up.
    Interstate Ave. used to be a four lane road before they made light rail. Now at 5:00pm it is a major back up, so is Greely, the nearest alternative to Interstate. It can take 20 minutes to get up the hill on Greely to Adidas on many days. It is the same for Interstate also. These cars are sitting there with their engines running getting zero miles per gallon spewing pollution into the surrounding neighborhoods. Cars are also trying to cut through the residential streets where kids are playing and also speeding on the greenways.
    It is obvious that they need to move the cars and trucks more efficiently on the major arterial routes, not stymie them even more.

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    • 9watts October 14, 2013 at 10:22 am

      That is 20th Century thinking right there. Outta my way! Widen the roads! Car is king! This is America!

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      • jim October 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm

        Do you prefer traffic jams and grid lock?

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        • 9watts October 15, 2013 at 10:15 am

          I prefer to look at the world through eyes not locked inside what Alan Durning calls Carhead: http://daily.sightline.org/2007/04/19/car-head/

          Your perspective is just one of many possible ways of looking at this.
          You say: road diet = moronic; efficient movement of cars = good.

          I say: universal reliance on cars already waning. Why put all our eggs in that obsolete, dangerous, expensive basket?
          Lots of people don't drive because this is the one, best way to get around; they drive because society is organized to favor that, discourage ever other way of getting around, even at the very high costs this arrangement exacts on just about everyone. If you re-level the playing field some, make biking, walking, good transit realistic, safe options, many will (already are) drift(ing) away from the car. And you and your Cold War buddies will then have lots more room on our streets to floor it.

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          • GlowBoy October 15, 2013 at 11:52 am

            Geez, this has been pretty extensively addressed in the other recent Barbur threads: the stretch in question is so underutilized that slimming it won't contribute significantly to traffic jams and gridlock. The intersections at each end of this section would still retain their 4-5 line configurations, and the segment in between functions effectively as a bridge (which means each lane carries double the vehicle capacity per hour) due to the lack of intersections.

            Even in the occasional instances when this section fills up due to an I-5 incident, the bottlenecks are at the signalized intersections. Even at 1 lane in each direction, this stretch of Barbur would have more capacity than the intersections at Terwilliger and Hamilton. This road diet would have absolutely no effect on congestion.

            I've got to think some members of the freight committee aren't completely ignorant of traffic engineering and must know this, which means this is just a knee-jerk exercise to throw their weight around in response to what they see as a threat, as the bike community starts to exercise a tiny but growing influence.

            As with many others, my response to the insulting, demeaning and ridiculous "walk your bikes" recommendation from the committee is this: when they come to one of these dangerous bridges, truck drivers should be required to come to a complete stop, get out of their cabs and back in, then proceed across in first gear while limiting their speed to 7mph. That would be roughly comparable to what they're asking us to do. Oh wait, that would be the case IF the sidewalks were wide enough to walk next to your bike, which they are NOT.

            I rode these bridges again last night, at my usual 20-25mph. Fortunately, as usual the traffic was extremely light. It does at least look like the sidewalks would be wide enough to be rideable, BUT the railing is far too low for safety, and the ramps up onto the sidewalks are unrideable -- with even a careful rider at risk of being launched over the too-low railing into the abyss below. So I give this part of Barbur an "F' (as in, "cyclists are f***ed"), because we can't walk our bikes across the bridges, we can't ride the sidewalk safely, and we can't ride the bridge deck safely. It's lose-lose-lose. If ODOT at least raised the railings and provided better ramps up onto the sidewalks -- both of which are feasible -- I would upgrade my rating to "D minus".

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  • was carless October 13, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    In 20 years of living in Portland, I can't remember EVER seeing a transport truck on Barbur on the section in question. Honestly.

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  • bula October 14, 2013 at 11:40 am

    So, I ride this every day.

    Why can't we just get rid of the elevated sidewalks and make those normal bike/pedestrian lanes?

    There are barely any 'freight' vehicles, ever, on Barbur from north of Terwilliger to downtown.

    Northbound traffic gets bad in the afternoon because of the on-ramp to the Sellwood bridge. It has nothing to do with Barbur itself

    Southbound gets bad in the afternoon because of the lights at Terwilliger. But they move along just fine eventually.

    The bridges in question are totally sketchy - and almost wide enough to add a bike-lane w/o the 'diet' plan. It'd be better to take out the elevated sidewalks, re-stripe with a bike and pedestrian lane like on the Hawthorne, and call it good. It would be more expensive than a 'diet' but would not cost millions and would leave the lanes which are probably needed.

    But the rest of Barbur, is, for the most part, decently safe (except for the crossing of doom to stay on Barbur when it splits into Naito).

    So, can anybody say why just replacing the elevated sidewalks with regular bike/pedestrian lanes won't work?

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    • Alan 1.0 October 14, 2013 at 11:59 am

      The sidewalks are structurally integral to the bridge; they can't be removed. I suppose the roadway could be brought up to grade with the sidewalks.

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      • GlowBoy October 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

        Alan's right that the sidewalks cannot be removed. I also doubt that the roadway could be raised, because the additional weight would probably exceed the bridges' load rating.

        But as I mentioned above, ODOT could at least increase the height of the railings so they're above a cyclist's center of gravity (look how quickly new fences got put up on the Vista Bridge! As usual, it takes a death to get anything done). And they could improve the asphalt ramps up from the bike lane to the sidewalks to that they are rideable by a cyclist going above 6 mph.

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        • Alan 1.0 October 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm

          "I also doubt that the roadway could be raised, because the additional weight would probably exceed the bridges' load rating."

          I'm pretty sure it could be done. Yeah, concrete or asphalt are heavy, but it's all static distributed load, the easiest kind to support. The bridges already support vastly greater dynamic point loads (trucks) with a big safety factor (quite possibly 2x). Such a raised deck could be reinforced to further distribute dynamic point loads across a wider section of the bridges, more than compensating for its own mass.

          I'd guess that budget is the restraining factor, not engineering.

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  • GlowBoy October 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Besides making room for non-automotive uses, one of the primary benefits in road diets is reduced vehicle speeds and enhanced safety for all road users.

    The solo driver of a passenger vehicle was killed in a high-speed crash on Barbur early this morning. Is this the kind of fatality you were looking for, Freight Committee?

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  • Phil Richman October 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Here is a link to the Portland Freight Committee Membership List. For those who care about human safety it is beyond time to start a conversation, rather than continually present a dichotomy.

    http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/448515

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